Some businesses taking political, economic advantage of shutdown

Corporate January 17, 2014 00:00

By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

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Rather than licking their wounds over the disruptions caused by the "Bangkok shutdown" campaign to overthrow the elected government, some businesses in affected areas of the city are seizing new opportunities not only to maintain their income, but to make

The long-established baked-goods shop T42, located in the Siam Discovery shopping complex, which is near a rally site, offers a 20-per-cent discount for protesters.
Owner Vichien Chansevikul said the discount had been offered on the whole range of T42 products including baked goods and other foods, tea, coffee and other beverages for rally participants since Tuesday, the second day of the campaign. 
He said that normally the restaurant’s customers were tourists, office people and other regulars. Revenue is down because of the anti-government demonstrations, but he is not upset because he supports the protesters’ stated aims. 
“Why are we offering the 20-per-cent discount? The main reason is that we agree with the protesters. We do not favour the Democrat Party, and do not hate the Pheu Thai Party. But we do not agree with what the government has done. We totally agree with the things the protesters are urging,” he said.
He said that apart from joining the demonstrations himself, he was taking advantage of his restaurant’s location to support their cause. 
The 20-per-cent discount “is not a marketing campaign. It is our expression of support for the protest. We would like to be a part of it,” he said.
T42 opened in 1985. Its first location was at Charn Issara Tower. It moved to Siam Center in 1990 and then moved again to the fourth floor of Siam Discovery three years ago.
In a different part of the city, the recently opened Bangkok Hub Hostel, which is close to Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station, offers protesters a place to relax, use free Wi-Fi, and even take a shower. Owner Kriengkrai Charoenwisankul, who often joins the demonstrations along with the hostel’s co-founders, also delivers food for the protesters. 
“We got the idea to offer free services for protesters from our direct experience when joining the rallies at some sites, where it was difficult to find a restroom. We have the facilities, so we think we can offer their use to the protesters for free. Even though our location is not at a rally site, it is very close to Saphan Taksin BTS Station, so they can easily take the BTS to our hostel,” he said.
Like T42’s Vichien, he said this offer was not a marketing campaign, and he just wanted to support the protesters. But once he announced the free shower service, many calls came in asking for the room rates as well. 
“We have only nine rooms, three large ones with eight beds and six rooms with two beds. Now, we have a one-third occupancy rate,” Kriengkrai said.
Bangkok Hub Hostel opened three months ago, just before the People’s Democratic Reform Committee kicked off its campaign to oust the elected Pheu Thai-led government. Before the chaos began, it had received a lot of bookings from abroad through Agoda, and Unfortunately, once the protests started, around 80 per cent of the bookings were cancelled.
Meanwhile, Marina HK Restaurant in Siam Square Soi 1 has benefited from the rallies, enjoying an increase in customers, half of them protesters. 
Tussanee Thongmoonthai, the restaurant’s cashier, said it had been operating as usual since the rallies started in the area. “We do not offer special discounts for the protesters and do not provide any favours for the rallies’ participants. We just provide service as usual. The restaurant opens as usual from 7am until midnight.” 
Marina HK Restaurant’s normal clientele comprises tourists, both foreign and Thai, as well as regular customers. Revenue has been not declined since the anti-government campaign started almost three months ago. Indeed, this week income has been increasing because of the “shutdown”.